Time for clubs to think smart


First Published on Soccerex

Smartphone penetration with sports fans is increasing exponentially. However, to date, the industry has done a poor job keeping pace with changes in fan behaviour and the gap is widening. Left unchecked, this has serious implications on fan loyalty and, ultimately, revenue. As Eric Schmidt at Google said: “If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a future strategy.”

In terms of reaching engaged fans, at the appropriate time it’s hard to think of a bigger opportunity than in the venues themselves. The stadium, on a matchday, represents the highest concentration of fans at a point when they are ripe for relevant communication.

The rollout of 4G services across the UK, plus enhanced mobile and internet connectivity in general, helps to overcome one of the bigger obstacles for the in-stadia experience – poor reception and slow download speeds.

The potential for brands and teams to capitalise on a smart near-field communication strategy is very exciting. Mobile savvy consumers are becoming more demanding about the content they want to see and share. In a survey of 9,000 fans in the US by Coyle Media, 89% of fans own a smartphone, of which 93% use their phones for social networking versus just 49% of the general US public.

As the mobile fan becomes more sophisticated, so must the communication to them. Discovery-related content is a great opportunity to create a better end-to-end matchday experience and offers up a multitude of cross-selling options, from local restaurants to car parking. Capitalising on ancillary sales opportunities makes the event-going experience more holistic, better for the fan, and more lucrative for the industry.

Similarly, cashless payments options such as Paypal or Barclays Ping create a smoother transaction experience in high traffic areas. Imagine if a fan could order and pay for their half-time refreshments on the mobile and then collect as soon as the whistle goes?

Finally, the advent of mobile technology helps venues create better access control – something we have seen in our partnerships in the US. Mobile barcodes which can be scanned at the gate are an increasingly popular option for fans and enable venues and teams to gather data and insight on this passionate and engaged audience.

Navin Kekane is Director of International Operations at StubHub.

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